Jordan dismisses Syrian regime’s criticism of its strikes in Syria

Jordanian King Abdullah II during his visit to the headquarters of the Jordanian Civil Defense - January 23, 2024 (Jordanian Public Security Directorate/Facebook)

Jordanian King Abdullah II during his visit to the headquarters of the Jordanian Civil Defense - January 23, 2024 (Jordanian Public Security Directorate/Facebook)

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The official spokesman for the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sufyan Qudah, stated that any implications that the Jordanian borders were ever a source of threat to Syria’s security, or a crossing for “terrorists whom Jordan was the first to confront,” are rejected.

In addition, as reported by the Jordanian “Al-Mamlaka” TV channel yesterday, Tuesday, January 23, Qudah added that drug and weapon smuggling across the Syrian borders into Jordan represents a “danger threatening Jordanian national security,” noting that his country will continue to confront this threat and all those behind it.

Qudah pointed out that Jordan provided the “Syrian government” during the “Joint Committee” meetings with names of smugglers and the parties behind them, and with locations of drug manufacturing, storage, and smuggling lines within its control, yet no real action was taken to neutralize this threat. He indicated that smuggling attempts have seen a “dangerous increase” in their number.

He also mentioned that his country is ready to proceed in coordination with the “Syrian government” to stop smuggling operations and to hold the implementers and supporters accountable.

Qudah expected that the “brothers in Syria” would take practical, effective, rapid, and impactful measures against smuggling operations toward Jordanian territory.

The Jordanian spokesman concluded his remarks by stating that his country’s army can protect Jordan’s borders and security from “drug and weapon smuggling gangs.”

The Jordanian comment came hours after the Syrian regime’s comment on the Jordanian strikes within Syrian territory, which Jordan has not officially claimed responsibility for until today.

The official Syrian news agency (SANA) reported yesterday, Tuesday, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that Syria stresses that there are no justifications for such military operations on its soil, confirming its attempts to contain them, in order to avoid tension or an impact on the continued restoration of the relations between the two countries.

The Ministry pointed out that “since 2011 Syria has suffered from the influx of tens of thousands of terrorists and the transfer of huge quantities of weapons originating from neighboring countries, including Jordan, which has resulted in the death of thousands of innocent people and has caused great suffering to Syrians in various aspects of life and the destruction of infrastructure,” according to SANA.

Following a security operation

A few hours before the Syrian regime’s Foreign Ministry criticized the Jordanian military attacks in southern Syria, the Ministry of Defense in the Syrian government announced a security operation in various areas of the Daraa governorate that included destroying explosive devices and downing a drone on the border with Jordan.

The Ministry of Defense through Facebook, on Monday, said that border guard units were able to take down a drone near the Syrian-Jordanian border, without specifying its exact location.

The downing of the drone coincided with operations to dismantle camouflaged explosive devices shaped like rocks that were prepared to explode on the side of the road in the towns of Busra al-Harir in eastern Daraa and Muzayrib to its south.

This announcement by the regime about the drone is a first of its kind, but Jordan has repeatedly announced in the past the downing of drones loaded with weapons and drugs that were attempting to cross the border from Syria.

A spat after coordination announcement

The spat of statements between the two foreign ministries was preceded months ago by Jordanian political propositions for a settlement of the “Syrian crisis,” with border security being at the forefront of these propositions. The Jordanian-Syrian Joint Committee held its first meeting in July 2023 to combat drug smuggling across the Syrian borders into Jordan, as stated by the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time.

The meeting was chaired on behalf of the Syrian regime by Defense Minister General Ali Mahmoud Abbas and the Director of General Intelligence, General Hussam Louka, and on the Jordanian side by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Major General Yousef Huneiti, and the director of General Intelligence, Major General Ahmad Husni.

According to the Jordanian statement, the meeting, the location of which was not specified, discussed joint cooperation in facing the “danger of drugs, their production sources, smuggling, and the entities that organize, manage, and execute smuggling operations across the borders towards Jordan.”

Reuters reported that the meeting aimed to curb the growing drug trade along the shared border, which saw “bloody” skirmishes blamed mainly on “Iran-aligned factions controlling southern Syria.”

The meeting followed a “pledge” from the regime to Syria’s neighbors during the Amman meeting in May 2023 to cooperate with their efforts to curb the flourishing drug trade in Syria, in exchange for help in ending its pariah status, according to Reuters.

Repeated Jordanian raids

Airstrikes attributed to Jordan were repeated by the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024, showing a new strategy in dealing with issues related to drug smuggling into its territory from Syria.

The latest targeting was on January 18 of the current month when warplanes bombed residential areas in the adjacent towns of Arman and Malah in the southeastern countryside of As-Suwayda governorate in southern Syria, resulting in the death of nine people, including children, and injuring three others.

The As-Suwayda Civil Defense told Enab Baladi at the time that the airstrikes carried out by warplanes on Thursday, January 18, resulted in the death of nine civilians and injured three others, while search operations for missing people were still ongoing.

Before that, on January 9 of the same month, air raids believed to be by Jordanian aircraft targeted three locations in the As-Suwayda governorate in southern Syria.

On January 5, airstrikes believed to be Jordanian once again targeted targets in southern Syria amid the ongoing drug smuggling across the border from Syria to Jordan.

Also, on December 19, 2023, warplanes believed to be Jordanian carried out raids against “hideouts” of drug smugglers in response to a “major” smuggling operation coming from Syria, according to Reuters, quoting two regional intelligence sources and another unnamed Western diplomat monitoring the situation.

On May 8, 2023, warplanes likely Jordanian bombed targets in the Lajat area between the provinces of Daraa and As-Suwayda in southern Syria, resulting in the death of eight people from a complete family, including six children, and the prominent drug smuggler Marai al-Ramthan.

 

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